What's In Blue

Posted Tue 28 May 2024

Myanmar: Arria-formula Meeting

Tomorrow afternoon (29 May), the UK will convene an Arria-formula meeting on Myanmar. Director of UNICEF’s Office of Emergency Programmes Lucia Elmi is expected to brief. The meeting will begin at 3 pm EST and take place in the Trusteeship Council Chamber. Security Council members, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states, and countries bordering Myanmar have been invited to participate. The Permanent Representative of Myanmar to the UN, Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, is expected to take part in the meeting.

A concept note prepared by the UK says that the meeting seeks to highlight the effects of the ongoing conflict in Myanmar on children and youth. It also notes that the meeting will provide an opportunity to consider how the international community can unite and call for the implementation of Security Council resolution 2669 of 21 December 2022, in support of ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus, and a better future for the people of Myanmar, including its children, youth, and future generations. (The Five-Point Consensus, which was adopted by ASEAN in April 2021, called for an immediate cessation of violence, constructive dialogue among all parties, the appointment of an ASEAN special envoy to facilitate mediation of the dialogue process, humanitarian assistance, and a visit to Myanmar by the ASEAN special envoy to meet the parties.)

Two guiding questions for the meeting are outlined in the concept note:

  • How can the international community better ensure the protection of children in Myanmar, including under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict?
  • How can the international community support young people as agents of change and participants in a peaceful, genuine, and inclusive process towards a sustainable political resolution, in line with resolution 2669?

The conflict in Myanmar has continued to escalate during the first quarter of 2024, further exacerbating the already dire humanitarian situation in the country. According to OCHA’s 24 May humanitarian update, the humanitarian crisis has “entered a dangerous new chapter with entrenched conflict posing grave risks to civilians, stirring a worrying resurgence of inter-communal tension and driving record levels of displacement”.

The situation is particularly serious for children in Myanmar. UNICEF’s most recent humanitarian situation report, which was published on 23 May and covers the period spanning 1 to 30 April, notes that six million children in Myanmar require humanitarian assistance and says that children are bearing the heaviest burden of the ongoing violence and experiencing grave violations of their rights. In a 3 May statement, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator ad interim for Myanmar Marcoluigi Corsi said that an estimated one third of the three million internally displaced people in Myanmar are children and noted that they have had their education and futures “upended by conflict”.

Some of the violations experienced by children in Myanmar appear to be a continuation of the trends identified in the Secretary-General’s latest annual report on children and armed conflict, which was issued on 5 June 2023. The report covered developments in 2022 and noted that grave violations against children in Myanmar had increased by 140 percent compared to the previous year. (The six grave violations, as determined by the Security Council, are killing and maiming; recruitment and use by armed forces and armed groups; sexual violence; attacks against schools or hospitals; abduction; and denial of humanitarian access.) The report expressed alarm about the scale of abductions and killing and maiming of children, particularly by the Myanmar armed forces, and noted that a high number of children have been recruited and used by the Myanmar armed forces, most notably in Rakhine State. In their statements tomorrow, several Council members are expected to highlight and condemn reports of grave violations perpetrated in Myanmar, including the recruitment and use of children by the Myanmar armed forces and armed groups.

In her briefing, Elmi may refer to specific examples of grave violations against children in Myanmar, such as killing and maiming caused by landmines and attacks on schools and hospitals. According to the Secretary-General’s latest annual report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, dated 14 May, Myanmar was among the countries most affected by attacks on schools and hospitals, while children accounted for 20 percent of landmine casualties in the country in 2023. Elmi may also make several recommendations regarding possible responses to grave violations against children in Myanmar and discuss the broader humanitarian situation in the country, including by underscoring that efforts to provide humanitarian assistance have been hampered by the closure of roads and waterways, restricted access to affected populations, and limited telecommunications and internet connections.

Some members might raise the issue of forced conscription and its effects on youth in Myanmar. In February, the military authorities announced that they would begin enforcing compulsory conscription legislation that was first introduced in 2010. All men aged between 18 and 25 and all women aged between 18 and 27 are now required to serve in the military for up to two years.

The situation in Rakhine State is expected to be raised by Council members during tomorrow’s meeting. Since November 2023, when an informal year-long ceasefire between the Arakan Army and the Myanmar armed forces ended, the fighting in Rakhine has intensified, with the situation deteriorating markedly in recent weeks. In a 24 May statement, Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Liz Throssell said that the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has documented renewed attacks on Rohingya civilians by the Arakan Army and the Myanmar armed forces in northern Rakhine, including reports of aerial strikes, shooting of unarmed villagers, beheadings, disappearances, and burning of homes. On 23 May, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Thomas Andrews, issued a statement that highlighted reports of serious human rights violations in northern Rakhine and called for urgent action from the international community. Andrews’ statement also said that the Myanmar military has fostered tensions in Rakhine, including by spreading propaganda fuelling ethnic tensions and forcibly recruiting young Rohingya men. The Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM), a body created by the Human Rights Council (HRC) in September 2018 to collect evidence of the most serious international crimes and violations of international law in Myanmar and prepare files for criminal prosecution, has announced that it is closely monitoring the escalation of fighting in Rakhine State and assessing whether crimes against humanity or war crimes have been committed.

The UK, the penholder on Myanmar, circulated a draft press statement on the situation in Rakhine to Council members last week. The draft text apparently expressed deep concern over the escalation of conflict in Rakhine State, reiterated the Council’s demands for an end to the violence and its support for ASEAN’s efforts to find a peaceful solution to the crisis, and called for unhindered humanitarian access and the full implementation of resolution 2669, among other matters. It appears that the press statement was blocked after China and Russia expressed opposition to the draft. Since the adoption of resolution 2669 in December 2022, Council members have not been able to agree on a product on Myanmar. The UK has indicated that it is working on a draft resolution and has apparently been discussing the draft with the US; at the time of writing, however, a text had not been circulated to all members. At tomorrow’s meeting, some members might call for greater Council action on the Myanmar file.

On 5 April, Secretary-General António Guterres announced the appointment of former Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop as his Special Envoy on Myanmar. The post had been vacant since the contract of the previous Special Envoy, Noeleen Heyzer, ended on 12 June 2023. Council members are likely to welcome Bishop’s appointment in their statements tomorrow.

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